First-time AR-15 buyers are probably pretty excited about the state of the market right now, with prices being slashed right and left to make up for the over-production of rifles ahead of Hillary Clinton’s inevitable inauguration. That being the case it might make sense for buyers to look a little higher up the shelves and check out some of the better equipped firearms that are now in their price range. One such gun is the DPMS Enhanced Tactical RECON.

I seem to recall that Noveske was the first to coin the “Recon” setup for an AR-15: free floating handguards, 16-inch heavy stainless steel (non-parkerized) barrel, and a low profile gas block. The idea was to get as much accuracy as possible out of a short-ish gun.

DPMS is probably best known for their budget priced Sportical series of AR-15 rifles but their newer Enhanced Tactical line seems to be an attempt to move a little more up market. For the RECON they’ve followed the old Noveske formula to the letter, which is both good and bad.

Out on the front of the gun DPMS used a 16-inch heavy profile stainless steel barrel with 1:9 twist rifling. That’s noteworthy, since the gun is positioned accuracy, yet the 1:9 twist would optimize the gun for lighter, cheaper 55 grain 5.56 NATO loads instead of the traditionally more accurate 69 grain and 77 grain loads. Definitely not the end of the world — there are plenty of accurate 55 grain rounds available — but that twist rate will tend to limit the useful range of the RECON.

As you’d expect from any AR-15 manufacturer that’s come under the Remington umbrella, the DPMS RECON sports an AAC 51-tooth three-prong flash hider. Remington understandably wants to encourage gun owners to stay within their ecosystem when looking to add a suppressor. I would have preferred AAC’s muzzle brake, but then again I always prefer muzzle brakes.

The handguard selected for this rifle is short enough that a low profile gas block isn’t required, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that one is added anyway. The point of a low profile gas block is to allow a longer handguard to slide freely on top in a free-floated system but this one is about the same length as a typical mid-length gas system handguard.

Speaking of the handguard, one of the things I liked least about the RECON is the handguard design. These days firearms manufacturers have pretty much chosen sides in the great KeyMod versus M-LOK debate for slick-sided attachment mounting methods.

Remington’s taken things a step further, developing the SquareDrop system which is actually KeyMod-compatible. That design would have been great on this gun, but instead we get yet another full length quad-rail Picatinny setup.

Like I said, DPMS followed the original RECON specs pretty much to the letter with this gun including the quad rail. That was great when Noveske first knocked it out around a decade ago, but the firearms world has moved on since then. Quad rail handguards are one of those things I left back in my college days, along with futons and all-night Starcraft LAN parties.

Everything to the rear of the barrel nut is about what you’d expect. The rifle ships with a set of MOE iron sights, a Magpul stock, Magpul grip, and Magpul P-MAG. Also of note is that the receiver set has all of the requisite M4 features; a dust cover, forward assist and shell deflector. Those are missing on the budget priced Sportical are present — as they should be — here on the next level RECON.

Out on the range I had some assistance from the local /r/AustinGuns group testing out the gun, pumping hundreds of rounds down the RECON’s barrel. The gun functioned flawlessly despite the Texas heat and dirt, but I did have a couple of issues.

The trigger is probably highest on my list of faults. Just like every other “budget” AR-15 the gun ships with a standard mil-spec trigger, complete with a gritty pull and a break that’s harder to identify than the gender of a UC Berkeley liberal arts major. Bad triggers are the #2 culprit to blame for a rifle’s inaccuracy, #1 being a bad trigger puller.

It’s not like it’s an expensive fix either. A very solid ALG Defense trigger retails for right around $60. Putting a sub-standard trigger in an otherwise well-built gun is like putting gearbox from a VW bug in a finely tuned drag racer. It might work, but it limits what you can do.

Nevertheless I took the gun out to the 100-yard range, fed it some Eagle Eye ammunition, and shot a series of groups. I noticed that despite the 1:9 rifling the gun performed very well with the 75 grain projectiles Eagle Eye uses and slightly worse with an “accurate” 55 grain load I had as well.

All things considered, the RECON was surprisingly accurate. There’s a three-round group in there that’s pretty much dime sized, but thanks to that trigger I wasn’t able to keep it together. As-is the gun is definitely capable of shooting 1 MoA groups all day long. With a better trigger I wouldn’t be surprised if you could squeeze out 1/2 MoA groups with boring reliability.

The DPMS Enhanced Tactical RECON is a very good rifle that’s only kept from greatness by a couple of outdated component choices. Having a quad rail handguard is great for attaching all sorts of stuff to your gun, but the shooting world gone on to slimmer designs that are more useful for the everyday shooter.

That mil-spec trigger keeps the rifle from achieving its full accuracy potential. Fixing those two items would make this rifle really shine. The good news is that you, the end user, can remedy those issues for a couple of hundred dollars more and have an absolutely kick-ass rifle.

Specifications: DPMS Enhanced Tactical RECON

Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Barrel Length: 16 inches, heavy profile, 1:9 twist
Weight: 7.65 lbs
Price: $1,129 MSRP (seen in the wild as low as $860 retail)

Ratings (out of five stars): 

Style and Appearance * * *
About 10 years ago this would have been the belle of the ball. These days it’s a little on the chunky side and could use some slimming down. Still, not terrible.

Accuracy * * * 1/2
Fix the trigger and the rifle would be one of the more accurate offerings in this price range. As is it’s okay.

Reliability * * * * *
Zero issues of any kind.

Overall * * * 
Two small changes and this would be a truly great rifle. When you’re competing in the same price range as a DTI Evolution AR-15 which has a better handguard and trigger (albeit a slightly less accurate barrel) the details matter. That said, the DPMS Enhanced Tactical Recon is a rifle with great bones. An excellent choice as a starter gun for new AR-15 owners.

38 Responses to Gun Review: DPMS Enhanced Tactical RECON

  1. I wish everyone with ar similar 308/long action designs would standardize around the dpms 308 platform.

  2. The Oracle has a dust cover, shell deflector and forward assist. The Sportical does not. Other than that, nice review.

  3. I’ve never seen the point of a heavy barrel on a semi-auto 5.56×45 platform. You’re not going to cook a pencil barrel in semi auto and if it’s properly free floated, barrel harmonics are a non-issue. All you’re doing is adding weight.

    • Barrel harmonics are always an issue. Sure, you can spend the time to fine-tune a load that works in a wobbly barrel, but that doesn’t lend itself well to factory ammo or diverse bullet weights.

      • Modern 5.56×45 pencil barrels are more than stiff enough. Especially if you keep the length to 16″. My best shooting 5.56 rifle is running a 14.5″ pencil barrel.

        Don’t forget, we’re talking semi-auto, not benchrest bolt guns. You’re not going to get much better than 1 MOA out of any such rifle under practical field conditions.

        • “My best shooting 5.56 rifle is running a 14.5″ pencil barrel.”
          Mine is too, right until I hang a can on it. Besides, even if you go to the extremes and look at a pencil barrel vs an H-Bar, there is only about 3/4lb difference, and that’s for a 16″ barrel. That said, I see no reason for a heavy profile barrel on a “recce” rifle, but I would want a little heavier than pencil.

        • Sounds like a great problem to have Taylor. Thanks to SA and RRA, we’re not allowed to have cans up here in Illinoisistan.

          Oh, and 3/4 of a lb means that I save almost as much weight by going to that barrel as I would ripping off my ACOG and shooting irons.

        • I have an 18 inch SS barreled SPR (Noveske) that easily shoots sub moa groups. All my other CL barreled AR’s are over 1 MOA, but less than 1.5 moa. It can be done with the right barrel and ammo combo…even with pencil CL barrels.

  4. No reason not to make the handguard longer, especially at that price. Why leave that hot gas block out in the open? A longer handguard enables a longer sight radius and protects the barrel if you want to rest the gun on something..

    • A longer hand guard also allows the shooter to place his or her hand closer to the muzzle, aiding in preventing muzzle climb and allowing the shooter to “steer” the rifle to multiple engagements rapidly.

      I seen it on TV so it must be true!

  5. I know Magpul is the big boy on the block, but I wish more firearm manufacturers would choose other furniture makers such as BCM, Hogue, or the others. To me it would help differentiate them from the typical ARs with Magpul furniture. I have a Hogue buttstock on my M&P 15 Sport and it’s a nice piece. The BCM furniture on the Springfield Saint is top notch. My Palmetto State has a Magpul MOE grip and stock, and the stock is just, meh, ok, not as nice as the Hogue.

    Also, I think in general, 1:9 twist can (usually) shoot 69 grain well. I prefer 1:8 twist overall of the three popular choices nowadays.

  6. First off I didn’t bother even reading this article I just looked at the firearm that they were reviewing and came to obvious conclusion. What the heck was DPMS thinking? The latest greatest AR-15 being built today are super lightweight pencil barreled units. People have finally realize that just because you have a cheese grater rail system on the front of the gun doesn’t mean you have to add every Gadget on every piece of real estate and why did DPMS use a heavy barrel and a 10-pound handguard on this rifle and then made it a clap cible stop it’s like they had two groups of guys one group wanted a sniper rifle one group wanted a lightweight AR-15 and they came up with something that is very very heavy and as I was taught in the army grams equal ounces ounces equal pounds pounds equal pain. Every other company is trying to drop weight off their AR-15 platform rifle by using better furniture lighter and better lighter weight barrels lighter-weight receivers and then look at this gun looks like something that was released in 2007. I don’t like Freedom group or Remington Outdoors or whatever they’re calling themselves nowadays because the company is just basically cheap. That’s my $0.10 worth now actually read the article and laugh. LOL

    • “First off I didn’t bother even reading this article”

      Well, there’s your problem…

      • I’ve been building AR-15 since 1984 I can pretty much look at pictures and tell you what parts are being used to complete the rifle. First off this rifle was intended for I’m guessing 3-gun competition. That being said they’re handguard choice was 2006-2007 style handguard it not even coming to the end or near the end of the barrel prevents 3-gun competitors from being able to drive the end of the rifle in such a way to acquire targets quickly and efficiently. With this rifle if you try to push it hard you’re going to get a big handful of gas block which is going to sizzle your fingers to the barrel until you pull it off in the skin comes off with it. The stock and grip are old-school Magpul design they could have used the newer lightweight design and it would have been lighter and how about a 14 or 15 inch keymod or M Lok handguard give me a break. and how about a timney trigger or a guy’s Lee single stage trigger to make it work that money. they could have even gone with a lightweight bolt carrier group. Looks almost like they went in the back and seen what they had a ton of stock left over with the older handguard the older Magpul furniture and the Slick side upper receiver and they just threw a bunch of these guns together came up with a name for him and then Mark the price up almost double. Not a real smart thing to do nowadays in the AR-15 World offer something overpriced and outdated before it even gets packaged in a box to be shipped to the dealer I know we won’t be ordering any of these guns for our shop.

        • “I know we won’t be ordering any of these guns for our shop.”

          And THAT is your prerogative.
          I’ve had mine a few years and I’m happy with it. But then I don’t compete and it had exactly what **I** wanted.
          They’re still selling, so obviously SOME people want them.

          And luckily you won’t be selling them. I think that’s a win-win in my book since you obviously know so much more what people need than they themselves know. *SMDH*

          And NONE of us have to justify our wants/needs to YOU.

    • Jimmy Hoffa that was a dollars worth at least! This was an article for first time buyers looking for a deal, I think.

      • Okay I read the entire article and I stand by what I said over eleven hundred bucks for a rifle that doesn’t have a a newer lightweight more ergonomic furniture I give a thumbs down. Now it is true you can spend 1100 and $30 and then go right out and buy a new hand guard for about 200 and a stock for around 60 and a grip for about 20 and have yourself a decent rifle and then maybe throw a nice bolt carrier group in there to complete out the barrel and you probably would get sub minute of angle groups all day long but they’re asking a whole heck of a lot of money for outdated furniture and a mil-spec trigger sorry oh and a mil-spec bolt carrier group. And I’m guessing a mil-spec charging handle as well all of that stuff needs to be changed.

  7. I have this rifle, be wary of steel cased ammo. I bought several boxes and turned the gun into a jam o matic. Brass cased shoots all day long, steel 1 shot and a stuck case. I was only able to remove the case by using a cleaning rod to knock it out. This has happened several times so no more steel. Other than that it’s accurate and reliable though it is a little heavy.

    • Most likely you have a match grade chamber in them and it’s a little bit tighter on the headspacing. This is why you’re having extraction problems with steel cases. Still is just not as slippery as brass after you get a couple thousand rounds through this weapon you probably will be able to shoot Steel in it even though I don’t recommend doing that. Hope it helps

      • James is correct; Recon barrels are finish-reamed on the production line and are left very tight. Also, don’t shoot steel-cased ammo through a stainless barrel.

  8. I am so happy that someone found a home for all those neglected quad rails. They’ve been sleeping in the original boxes, in the rain, while their M-lok cousins eat cake.

    #blackquadrailsmatter

  9. Anybody else think this rifle is a little overpriced for what you get like I said once before this looks like something made in 2007 not 2017 there’s so much more technology that said our shop are pushing the cusp of every day we build a rifle that I don’t see a real place in the market for this old school overpriced piece of kit.

    • “I don’t see a real place in the market for this old school overpriced piece of kit.”

      Care to name a few better options for comparison purposes?

      • I work at a Class 7 manufacturing shop that builds custom AR-15 LR 308 and AR-10 rifle platforms. So I don’t really buy off the shelf. However if you came into our shop and you had around $1,200 to spend I could get you a rifle that had the newest style furniture on it a name brand quality Barrel and bolt carrier group and I could do that for $1,200. Now if you wanted to go super expensive we could even put a Krieger or a Bartlein barrel in it with a top-of-the-line young Manufacturing national match Chrome bolt carrier group then you’re talking about 1400 bucks but it’s all relative why pay $1,135 for something that you’re going to have to spend another 300 $400 depending on which trigger you buy to make it right it doesn’t make any sense you’d be better off buying exactly what you wanted, then putting a little bit more money out there is all I’m saying.

        • So the rifle you are building in your shop for 1200 is 350 more than the actual street price of this gun. Since you said it would cost 300 to 400 to improve it, well that puts the buyer right back at the same price as your build.

  10. As long as it doesn’t have an aluminum gas block, relax it’s all good, some like cheese in their chili. Daniel Defense likes cheese they just started using Keymods.

    • What’s wrong with using a keymod free float handguard or an M Lok free float handguard? I prefer keymod hand guards for the simple reason is there cheaper to acquire. Keymod was originally designed by Bravo Company and they do not charge a royalty fee to anyone that wants to manufacture lights lasers infrared devices or even the handguards in the key mod design. Whereas Magpul charges a royalty fee to anyone making an M_Loc handguard or accessory for M Lok. That’s why you see manufacturers that make both in lock and keymod handguard the key mod handguard will be cheaper than the M lock because of such royalty fees they have to pay Magpul. But really either handguard works very well and is super lightweight and super ergonomic.

  11. Not long ago, DPSF was bottom of the barrel. Besides updating their styling, have they increased their quality or they just producing polished turds?

  12. DPMS? I’ve owned two and will never own another. The two were manufactured seven years apart, and both had serious extraction issues. I sent to first back to factory for work, and they sent it back saying nothing was wrong with it. I was finally able to fix it myself with an after market extractor spring upgrade. I bought the second in the expectation that they would have improved their design. I finally corrected that one by buying a new upper from another manufacturer.

    Never again. If you want to buy one, I wish you the very best.

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